Can my ex change the school my child goes to?

Although one parent should not unilaterally change their child’s school without first obtaining consent from the other parent with parental responsibility, in theory, a child can be moved  to another school. Parents who hold parental responsibility, whether or not they have been married, have an equal right and say in matters concerning their children, including which school their child attends.

If you have a dispute with your ex, you should initially try to resolve it through talking and placing your child’s needs above your own desires. But what can you do if your ex changes your child’s school, or has at least mentioned a possible move you disagree with? This article discusses these issues.

What can I do if I disagree with my ex changing our child’s school?

Mediation may help you reach agreement; it is flexible, and parents can explore various solutions in a structured and neutral setting. If the child is old enough, they may be invited to share their view. A mediation plan or parenting agreement can be drawn up, although it is important to say this is not legally binding. If you are thinking about applying to court, attending mediation is a mandatory requirement before any application can be made.

Can I apply to court for an order preventing my child from being moved to another school?

If mediation has not helped, then you may consider filing an application under section 8 of The Children Act 1989. Regarding the issue of preventing a move, the following applications may be relevant:

  • Specific Issue Order: under this type of application, you are asking the court to deal with a specific matter, such as the child’s schooling and which school they should attend.
  • Prohibited Steps Order: this is an application to prevent another parent from exercising their parental responsibility and is useful for parents who think the other is likely to move the child from one school to another without their consent.

Both applications can be made at the same time, or during an application for a Child Arrangement Order, which asks the court to set out the arrangements for the children. A key factor for the court in deciding an application is the extent to which each parent has considered how changing school will affect their child and whether this will be positive or negative.

The court will also consider a range of other relevant factors in order to help them reach a decision, including using the welfare checklist which includes things such as the wishes and feelings of the child, what is in the child’s best interests, and the potential benefits of moving school or staying put.

What can I do if my ex refuses to pay public school fees?

Many parents have opted to educate their child at a fee-paying school and have probably made this decision together. It is best for everyone if parents can agree payment of school fees, but the court is there for those who cannot.

The court has the power to make a school fees order as part of the financial settlement on divorce. If parents are not married, or if the divorce settlement did not cover payment of school fees, the court can make an order for school fees under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. This type of application is more likely to be successful if the child attended public school during the relationship and at the time of separation.

The court has a wide discretion in this area and will consider things such as the income of both parties, their financial commitments, and the needs and expectations for the child. Ultimately, a school fees order must be affordable and will not be made if the financial commitments cannot be met.


If you have concerns about your child’s school arrangements and you feel you need legal advice, contact specialist family solicitor Mark Heptinstall of Slater Heelis. He is recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ in The Legal 500 and ranked in Chambers UK, and is described as having “the amazing ability to bring calm into troubled waters”.

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